And She’s Buying A Stairway


I know I’ve blogged about music before, but I don’t know that I’ve adequately conveyed how important music is to me. I don’t know if I can adequately convey how important it is to me.

I’ve heard two people in my life claim to not like music. Any music. They both confused me and made me feel sad for them. How can you not like any music? It’s like they were already dead.

When I was very young, the music that I loved could only be the music that the adults gave me access to. Which means I listened to Irish folk music, The Beatles, and Iron Butterfly.

Today? Irish folk music mostly pisses me off, but if it’s The Clancy Brothers, then I’m going to listen and I’ll probably know every word. For instance, part of their children’s medley goes through my head at least once a week. I can thank my dad for playing The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem at Carnegie Hall a million times. The rest of my music came from my mom’s two youngest sisters. They were only 4 and 6 years older than me. That’s where I heard The Beatles, The Monkees, and the Stones. I learned that Bobby Sherman was the devil and that I was to hate him forever.

I still love the Beatles. I love nearly everything about the Beatles, other than Run For Your Life. I fucking hate that song. Iron Butterfly? Yeah, I can do without them.

Once I started school and was old enough to spend time at other people’s houses without my parents (which honestly, was by age 6. I pretty much grew up a feral child on the street), I started hearing other types of music and I remember that I felt untethered for a couple years. There were so many sounds. So many options. I listened to Pink Floyd, Dr. Hook, and Elton John. I listened to Linda Ronstadt, Led Zeppelin, and Alice Cooper. I listened to anything I could as often as I could.

If you’ve read my blog for a while, then you know I have a narcissistic father. By the time I was old enough to form my own opinions on music, he had already been punishing me for years for having my own opinions on anything else. I remember once asking him if I could play the jukebox and he gave me a nickel and told me I could play one song. I picked Long Cool Woman by The Hollies. I remember the horrified look on my father’s face. That was song you picked? I understood the look and I understood what he was saying. I was wrong to like that song. It was inappropriate and probably bad.

I still loved The Hollies.

By the time I started Junior high, music no longer attracted and frightened me. It only attracted me. I started the beginning of the 7th grade writing a fan letter to the Jackson Five and I ended the 7th grade listening Aerosmith and David Bowie.

If you grew up in the seventies around Cincinnati, OH, then you probably listened to Q102.  You probably remember the night time disk jockey, Mark Sebastian. Every night, Q102 played the top 10. At the time, my family lived with another family that my parents met through their prayer meetings. A single mother and her two children. My two sisters and her younger daughter had to use the basement as their bedroom. Her older daughter and I shared a bedroom. It was a strange time.

I don’t remember what my bedtime was, but I do remember it was before the top ten countdown ended every night. I couldn’t miss the countdown. I would listen to the whole thing with the volume turned way down and my head pressed against the mesh of a big box speaker. Every single night, for months, the number one song was Stairway To Heaven. And every night, at the end of the song just after Robert Plant sings “and she’s buying a stairway to” and before he sings “heaven”, Mark Sebastian would whisper “bite me”. Every night.

I listened to top 40 until high school, then I switched to the Album oriented rock station, WEBN. My exposure wasn’t limited like it was when I was 5 years old, but it was still pretty fucking limited.

Bruce Springsteen was my god during high school. Although, I remember the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf by Duran Duran I felt the winds of change drift through my head.

After high school, I got a little bit of that fear and awe of music when I discovered MTV. We can rag on it all we want, but I  loved MTV. I watched MTV every chance I got. I learned about U2 and INXS and The Cure. I saw The Clash and Billy Idol and learned what my favorite music is. When I moved out on my own and got married the first time, if the tv was on, then it was on MTV.

I gave up on MTV years before The Real World started up. VH1 offered a little nostalgia for me, but when MTV died, my fascination with watching and listening to performers died with it.

I really thought that I had already fallen in love for the last time. Music would always be important to me, but I would never feel that swimmy, ‘holy shit the world is opening up’ feeling that you get when you find out music is so much bigger than you thought it was.

Then, I met Randy and he gave me that all over again. I’ve learned so much more and learned so much about myself since we’ve been together. One of those things was Randy pulling open new curtains and showing me that I was still missing out. He gave me Elvis Costello, The Cramps, Howlin’ Wolf, and The Ramones. He gave me The Handsome Family, The Queers, the Pixies, and John Hiatt. There is so much more than this, but I’d end up writing a book and you’d end up getting bored.

I think now, maybe, that it could happen again. I don’t think I’ve fallen in love for the last time anymore, but you know how it is with finding love, you never know when it will actually hit.

That little Clancy Brothers bit that still goes through my head in the regular rotation goes like this:

Up the long ladder and down the short rope

To hell with king Billy and God bless the Pope

If that doesn’t do, we’ll tear him in two

And send him to hell with his red, white and blue




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  • This is something we definitely have in common. Music is like breathing to me. I find it really hard to understand that it isn’t the same for everyone but I guess someone has to love the things I have no interest in, or a lot of stuff wouldn’t get done that needs to be
    I still feel sorry for those that claim not to like music, I can’t imagine what that must be like. They must have a part of their soul missing

    Kudos to Randy for introducing you to The Cramps.
    I have to thank a my musical partner in crime for introducing me to much of the music I love, Alice Cooper, Lone Justice, The Del-Lords, The Beat Farmers, The Fleshtones, Peter Case, The Del Fuegos, Dream Syndicate, Tom Waits and so many others.

    He was a huge influence way back when we first played together and frequently still is.

    It’s so good to have people in your life that love to discover music and aren’t closed off to new stuff.

    • I have someone who is close to me who spent a little time in a correctional facility. Her 30 minute phone call each week was me playing music and sitting the phone in front of the speaker. She so looked forward to that time.

  • I love listening to music, but only when I’m not working on something that requires grey matter. I remember my dad and I having some similar tastes. He bought John Cougar’s (pre Mellencamp) American Fool and I thought he was totally the coolest. He put up with my Duran Duran and I put up with his Don Henley. I try to honor his memory by not cringing when my son turns on dubstep.

    I’m married to an audiophile who loves live music and indie bands, and we spend more on music than we do on beer. Well, probably not, but it’s a bunch. Every year there’s a big music festival here that gets all the SXSW bands to come to Boise and mixes it up with a few local gigs. For four days we take vacation time and pawn the kids off on someone, and go from venue to venue downtown to listen to the most eclectic mix of genres you could imagine. Something like 320 bands play that week.

    I can’t stand regular broadcast radio anymore. When they started doing parodies about that All About that Bass song, and I had to go look it up to see what they were mocking. I like the parodies better.

    • I am the exact opposite. I have to have music on or I can’t concentrate. We are a family entirely populated by ADHD brains..(it’s interesting here) I am very easily distracted…especially by my own thoughts. If I have ear buds in, that satisfies the part of my brain that is hopping all over the place and then I can get some work done.

  • Aw, what a great post, Michelle. I’m also passionate about music and used to listen to the top 10 (as a child). My first album I owned was Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumors’ which I won from the local pop am. radio station 🙂 I’m still passionate about music and have a major crush on Dave Matthews and have for the last 15 years. I thought I might outgrow DMB, but I’m still totally smitten and in love. Your Randy has some great taste in music, too!!

    • I LOVED that album and just listened to it again for the first time in years about a month ago. I still knew all the words and kind of fell in love with it all over again

  • My dad used to make me listen to Irish drinking songs. Well, “make”–he had them on when I was around. I still love a song called “Steve O’Donnell’s Wake” (I can’t remember who did it). I listened to The Cramps in high, school thanks to one of my friends, and owned “Bad Music for Bad People” on vinyl. I know people for whom music is a necessity–they always have earbuds in, the radio on. It’s not like that for me, but I do love the soundtrack-ness of it. When I was a kid, my dad would hear a song (he listened to a lot of oldies stations that played stuff like The Dixie Cups and Danny and the Juniors) and he’d hear a song and say, “Oh yes, the summer of 1958” or whatever. I always assumed he meant that’s when the song came out, but in retrospect it may just have been the time of which the song reminded him. Our local radio station (Q107) did the top 5 at 10, and I was equally devoted.

    • Randy constantly has music going, I do not, but it’s every day. I have to have earbuds in when I’m writing code at work. It quiets my brain down and allows me to think.

  • Most of the defining moments of my life can be associated with music — but I’m hopelessly uncool when it comes to the range of artists and genres that I know and love.

    I loved MTV — I was in radio at the time and, like most DJs, I aspired to be a VJ. I really wanted Martha Quinn’s gig!

    • You like what you like, sister…I take a lot of shit from my husband and musician friends for still loving Adam Ant. I even saw him in concert a year ago and I LOVED it.

  • Seriously, Michelle, it’s like you climbed inside my head on this one. My first concert was Aerosmith and Ted Nugent. From Motown to the folk singers of the 70s to the hair bands of the 80s… every segment of life is enhanced by the soundtrack. Thank you for sharing your love for music with us! And you absolutely cannot go wrong with Long Cool Woman! Best, Karen

  • On the first day of class, (in the only college course I ever took) Jerry Moore told us, his latest crop of music theory students, something I’m thankful to him for to this day. He suggested that as we learn about music in school (and from that point on, in general) we make an effort to appreciate the music we already loved in the light of the things we learned. He went on to describe a pattern or cycle he had been observing in his students for many years. He said that as we devoured the entire new worlds of music we were about to be exposed to (by him and each other) we would tend to reject, or at least neglect our previous or current musical passions in favor of each new one we would be obsessing over. And all the while this was happening, we would be, as they say, getting a life. He said that this would cause it to dawn on many of us in a few years just how much work being a music snob actually was, after which we would do one of two things:
    Return to loving the kind of music we already loved, or something like it; or not really caring much about music at all.
    I’m going to do my best to keep you from making that second choice, he said, but you have to remember that it’s always going to be up to you.
    When it occurs to me that I haven’t really listened to any music in a couple of days, I remember Jerry Moore and go find some.

  • This is lovely! I too am a huge music fan, though I do favor a lot of Broadway show tunes and music from the 70’s that I promised my son and husband I would no longer admit to in public! My husband has always been into classic rock, and the Dead. Our son is a huge Beatles fan, as well as Buddy Holly and Elvis. This has opened up a whole new world of music for me and I love it!

  • I have never met someone who told me they didn’t like music, period. But it sounds like how I feel when people tell me they don’t “like to read”. Like, words? You don’t like to read words? Books? With awesome stories in them? I don’t understand.

    I definitely do not think anyone should give up on music. There is some really great stuff out now, honestly. There is always garbage that gets played too much on the radio, who cares? Some of it is even fun and catchy. But nobody needs to worry that music is dying.

  • What more can I say that we have not already said to each other? I, like you, could just keep writing and then there’d be a novel here and dammit, I’m too tired to write anymore!
    There is still good music being made — just look outside of mainstream. Then again, any time I think “I listen to new music!” the bands I come up with are at least ten years old. (I mean, they’ve been a band for at least ten years, not that they’re a band made up of ten-year-olds.)
    I think I need more sleep.
    Recent discovery: (not that they’re new….) The Mountain Goats. Brilliant, lo-fi, excellent songwriting. Check out one song: Dilautid

  • Okay, I’ve never been to Cincinnati, but now I am picturing Mark Sebastian as Johnny Fever. Thanks for that. Also: yes, yes, and yes. All of the above, except my parents were alcoholics. And I think I’m a few years older than you.

  • Music was everything to me when I was growing up – from Broadway to Billy Joel to the B-52s, I loved it and had very specific taste. It was a way of feeling better and connecting to other people. If you like Neil Young, I’d be your friend.

  • You had me at Duran Duran. Although I absolutely HATE the song Hungry Like the Wolf, i do know exactly what you mean when you say you listened to the music with your ear pressed against the mesh speaker. Music was a MUST growing up in the 70’s and 80’s and I believe they will NEVER make music that good ever again. I miss MTV as it was in the very beginning. And I can still remember where I was when I heard some of my favorite songs (Hungry Heart, in the skating rink waiting for my crush to show up). Ahhh, good memories. Thanks for taking me back.

  • Hold up, Michelle…

    Did you say that Bobby Sherman was the devil?!

    I ask because when I was 7 years old–and I think you and I are about the same age–my mother had an old college friend who was a producer in Hollywood. We lived in Northern California and he invited us to come down and tour some studios and television sets. We got to see the I Dream of Jeannie set, the Flying nun set (and to meet Mother Superior, Sister Sisto [who we were sooo disappointed to learn had a fake accent], and Sally Field herself!). But, the highlight of the trip was to watch them film the show Here Come the Brides, starring…Bobby Sherman! I had a bad cough and had a very hard time keeping quiet during the filming. Bobby noticed this and came up to me afterward and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek for doing my best not to cough. When we went home and I returned to school all of the older girls swarmed around me for days because I’d been kissed my Bobby Sherman! I quite honestly would not recognize a song of his if it slapped me in the face now, but obviously that’s a fun memory for me. Don’t you diss my Bobby! 😉

    But, seriously, music has so many memories and emotions attached to it for me–it’s hard to understand how it wouldn’t play a central role is someone’s life. Stairway to Heaven…was that still played at your high school, years past when it would have been a Top 10 song? My memories of it are HS dances–hoping a cute guy would ask me to dance and dreading that a “loser” would instead (which was usually the case). Then there was the inevitable erection pressed up against me followed by the relief and awkwardness when the fast part of the song came and you’d break away from your partner and try to figure out how to not dance like a total dork.

    It’s funny that you mention the Monkeys. I LOVED them, but even at age 5 understood that it wasn’t acceptable to say that they were better than the Beatles (even though I thought they were). I also remember that you were supposed to love Davy Jones because he was cute and had the British accent, but it was Mickey I pined for.

    Sorry to ramble on and on. I just really enjoyed this post, and it sounds like music has always helped you cope as it has me. xo!

    • Hahaha…Yes..Bobby Sherman was the devil. My aunts were just old enough that they were too cool for him, so they ‘educated’ me.

      And WHAT A GREAT STORY! HOLY HELL! How exciting! My biggest brush with greatness when I was a kid was The Banana Splits were playing at an amusement park and my parents took me to see them, I got pulled up on the stage to dance with them. I floated on that for months….

  • To add to your enjoyment of Bruce Springsteen.
    About 4 years ago, my son was in a small Calgary clothing store holding and swaying my oldest granddaughter Poppy when she was still a baby.
    Bruce came into the store looking for his adult daughter.
    He spotted my son (who has an unimaginably terrific grin), pointed to Poppy, made a rocking motion with his arms, and gave James a thumbs up.
    Just 2 Dads relating. Coolest thing ever.

  • Boy, videos were everything to me when MTV started up. I had been watching Friday Night Videos (on NBC?) for a couple of years and thrilled to a channel that would play videos 24/7. Remember when they did that?

    Haven’t seen a music video now in decades.

  • Hahahaha! We are so much alike! I can’t live without my music and constantly have my ear buds on with my ipod and probably couldn’t write without it! I remember Mark Sebastian very well I think he was my first love until I to switched to WEBN!

  • I remember being 10 and telling my super cool, older by 5 years sister that the Monkees were Sooooooo much better than the Beatles. She pretty much wrote me off as a pesky, lame little sister at that point. For good reason. As for Stairway to Heaven, that is one song I heard too often and finally got sick of. Oops, sorry! PS The Monkees did have some pretty good songs. Almost as good as the Beatles

  • I LOVE music, it is who I am. My high school boyfriend would serenade me with Zepplin’s Thank You. Still gives me chills. My first concert at age 13 was Van Morrison followed quickly up by Eric Clapton. Such awesome music, so many fantastic guitar solos. Now there is none of that in music, makes me sad. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  • Name a song from my lifetime, and I’ll give you the full story. So many defining moments of my life have a song or a soundtrack. And naturally I married a musician. Although I tend to focus in on the lyrics, and he tends to focus in on the instruments. Just two sides of the same coin.

    • I only listen..I don’t create. Randy writes lyrics and plays guitar. His college room mate has recorded a bunch of his songs. I should write a post about that.

  • Great post! I cannot imagine a life without music. It can change my mood in an instant! My family is full of musicians, so I grew up with it and taught my kids to love it and be involved in it as well. There is ALWAYS some sort of music playing in our house!

  • My husband heard it said (who knows where/when now) that happy people sing, hum, have a melody in their head/heart. So yeah, how sad for people who don’t like music. I mostly sing songs in my head much to everyone’s relief I’m sure. 🙂 And I remember Friday Night Videos and when MTV was still MTV. And pretty much any 80’s tune sends me back to another place/time. Thanks for the memory triggers! 🙂

  • I’m pretty sure when Nutty Hubby and I got married and combined our music collections, a couple dozen angels got their wings. We’ve always some kind of music going in our home and in our car, and if music playing in your head means you’re crazy, then baby, I’m the craziest.

  • I love the feeling of discovering a new band / album, I’ll usually obsess over it for a couple of months listening to it every chance I get. Recently, my beloved got me onto musical theatre which is something I’d previously swore never to listen to. He’s totally destroyed my macho image…

    • Hahaha…I’m sure your macho image is just fine. We like what we like, eh? I’m all for getting turned on by new stuff..hell my husband even got me to appreciate Blue Grass.

  • I was fortunate enough to grow up with a music loving family. My dad like the sounds of the 1950’s and 60’s like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, and The Beach Boys, as well as The Beatles. My mom liked the 70’s and into the 80’s like Led Zeppelin, Eagles, The Bee Gees, Queen, Eric Clapton, and Pink Floyd. My brother, who is only two and a half years older, introduced me to metal. Not the hair metal crap, but early Metallica, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest. We also grew up together on Kiss, which remains a favorite of mine. On top of that, I was finding my own musical identity, embracing the blues of the 1940’s, the earlier groups of Eric Clapton, pre-Dark Side Pink Floyd, and REM.

    By the time I hit senior year of high school, the musical ground was shifting, but the full earthquake would hit shortly before graduation. I had heard this raspy and distorted sound that hit me like a ton of bricks. The landscape grew dark, but in a good way. I found myself listening to Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and Pearl Jam. I don’t turn from what I liked in the past, but add to it, and my eclectic music collection grows continually thanks to the people around me.

    Now, I better stop here before this comment becomes longer than the original post.

  • Music is also a huge part of my life, and I also like a wide variety of genres, including, yes, even the Clancy Brothers (Thanks to my Irish step dad). So much of the human emotion has been put into music, I can’t believe anyone wouldn’t like it! That just doesn’t even make sense to me! I am happy to hear that you have opened back up to finding new music because there is just so much of it out there.

By Michelle


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